Remembering cyx, the gifted player who helped revitalise German CS
gob b recalls the moment he learned that cyx had died like it was yesterday. He had just arrived in Shanghai, where mousesports were due to play at the IEM5 Global Challenge, when he received a phone call revealing that his teammate and longtime friend had tragically lost his life in a car accident while returning home from Frankfurt Airport after missing his flight.
"I can still remember how I felt," gob b says. "Kapio told me I was getting really pale, like I had seen a ghost. I was like, ‘Are you joking?’. I knew that was not the kind of joke one would make, but that was my first reaction. I could not say anything, I did not say anything to the boys. I could not even tell them. I was absolutely in shock."
He was not the only one. The entire community was in mourning at the death of one of the most promising players in Europe. He had been competing at the top for only three years, yet he had already made his mark on the game with his incredible talent and versatility, his competitive spirit and affable personality also leaving no-one indifferent.
cyx was already a rising star by the time he joined mousesports, in July 2007. After playing for some lower-tier German teams, neXus and endeffect, he earned his breakthrough at the beginning of 2007 with 360eSports, linking up gob b, who would remain a teammate and a close friend until the end. "He was like a brother to me," the BIG player says. "He still is and always will be. We had a lot in common, we shared the same birthday and had this totally random stuff that connected us more."
In his first challenge at the top, cyx immediately made his presence felt as he helped the team to secure an unlikely qualification for the ESL Pro Series Germany Season X Finals with an impressive 9-2-2 record, earning the title of rookie of the season.
That summer, mousesports came knocking. An early exit at ESWC 2007 had proved to be the final straw for the German powerhouse, who had failed to replicate ALTERNATE aTTaX's 2006 success even after signing three players who had been part of that team, Tim "silver" Hochgrebe, Manuel "Tixo" Makohl and Navid "Kapio" Javadi. gob b was the first player to get picked up by mousesports, with cyx following suit on the current BIG captain's recommendation.
"They were thinking about other players, and I was like: 'You guys are crazy. You need to take him [cyx]. He will be one of the biggest talents in Germany, for sure'," gob b recalls. "When mousesports first approached me, I declined, because I still wanted to play with the team. Then, there was the chance to get cyx as well, and I thought it could be a really good team and that it could be cool if two new young guns joined the experienced players. The combination was really good. I had a big role in him joining mousesports."
During the first six months, things did not go as smoothly as the team would have wanted. They finished in third place at NGL One Season 3 and fourth at Season 4, while domestically, they could not take the EPS title off ALTERNATE aTTaX, who continued to rely on carry performances from star player Roman "roman" Ausserdorfer. With deep-rooted issues in terms of leadership and style, mousesports were hardly regarded as a title contender heading into the IEM Season 2 World Championship, in Hannover.
And then the unthinkable happened. After topping their group in convincing fashion, mousesports once again fell to ALTERNATE aTTaX, but then made a great run in the lower bracket, defeating SK and exacting revenge on roman’s side to set up a final clash against e-STRO. Coming from the upper bracket, the South Korean team, boasting an in-form Keun-Chul "solo" Kang, required just one map to secure the trophy, but mousesports were in control throughout and won both maps without hassle. The German team had defied the odds to record their biggest achievement at the time, one that no-one would have believed possible; not even mousesports’ own players.
"We had big problems back in the day," gob b says. "At NGL One, Kapio was calling and it was horrible, it did not work out. We then asked: ‘The biggest tournament is coming, IEM, in one week. What do we do?’
"We came close to splitting up, but I said: ‘I will just counter-strat everyone, we will not have any strats. I will go through every opponent and just anti-strat them. That was how we won the tournament. We never expected that, we did not feel ready at all."
That unlikely title marked the beginning of a fantastic year for mousesports, who would also win IEM Dubai and place second at GameGune and at the World eSports Masters (WEM). Individual accolades also continued to go cyx’s way as he was named the MVP of EPS Season 11, the first of five domestic league titles that he would win with the team.
mousesports hit a rough patch of form in 2009, only winning the lower-tiered GameGune and the underwhelming four-team IEM IV Global Challenge at Gamescom in addition to two EPS seasons. The Germans began 2010 with a bang, bringing in roman to finally assemble the dream team that fans had wanted to see for years, and the move immediately paid off: they won the IEM IV European Championship Finals, in Cologne, beating KerchNET - who would later form Na`Vi -, SK and fnatic in the playoffs after struggling in the gruesome best-of-one group.
It looked like 2010 would be mousesports’ year, but that turned out to be the only international title that the team won. In a year largely dominated by the iconic Na`Vi roster, mouz would come close to winning a second international trophy only at Arbalet Dallas (curiously, the final event with the full line-up), where they were defeated by the Ukrainians in the tournament decider after two close maps.
Even in Na`Vi's prime, mousesports were always a thorn in the side of the Ukrainians, who won the matches between the two teams by narrow margins. This has led many to speculate whether gob b's charges would have been the ones to put a stop to Na`Vi’s hegemony had they not lost a key player like cyx in such tragic circumstances.
"It is hard to say, to be honest," gob b says. "We played so many close games against Na`Vi. If we had won one of them maybe we would have been the team that year, but they won those close games and that made them so strong.
"At the time when Toni died, Na`Vi were one or two steps ahead of every other team. It would have been really hard to get there, but I believe we would have had a chance."
Whenever mousesports were able to challenge for international titles, cyx was at the heart of it. "He was absolutely the X factor in most of the rounds," gob b says. "He was the driving force, for sure. And he was always improving." As a hybrid player with impressive rifle control and a flashy AWP – you can read more about his style in a lengthy feature by Duncan "Thorin" Shields here –, cyx was capable of single-handedly turning key rounds in his team’s favour. “He had a really aggressive style but was really smart at the same time," says the BIG captain, who sees in Nikola "NiKo" Kovač some of the traits that cyx possessed. "Not the shooting style, but the way he was as a person, really understandable. He was a really good teammate, and this I could also compare with NiKo. If I had to pick someone else, I would go for Brollan, a really young player with no fear."
Former mousesports CEO Cengiz "django" Tüylü believes that cyx had the necessary ingredients to become one of Counter-Strike's all-time greats, revealing that the player’s career could have easily hit even greater heights as plans were in place to build a star-studded international lineup before the tragic accident occurred.
"He was one of the most skilled CS players at that time in my opinion: sick aim, fearless, crazy good movement, versatile with a lot of weapons and very eager to win," django says. "Antonio was a charismatic, open-hearted, silly, funny guy who managed to make us smile all the time, creating a good atmosphere within the team. He was by far the youngest person in our team, but in terms of skill, CS IQ and attitude one of the most complete players.
"He would have just turned 29 a few days ago, and I am convinced he would still be playing for mousesports together with gob. I think a lot of things would have gone differently.
"What most people don’t know is that Antonio was planning to team up with NEO and TaZ under the mouz banner before that accident happened. Who knows what would have happened.
"Toni's legacy is undeniable, he will always be remembered. I am really happy that our community has not forgotten about him."
cyx's death left mousesports with a hole that was simply impossible to fill, and it would take almost seven years for the organisation to contend for big trophies in the game again. The team pulled out of all international LAN tournaments for the remainder of 2010, having one final go at the EPS Germany Season XVII Finals, which they won with Christian "Blizzard" Chmiel as a stand-in.
That turned out to be gob b’s final event with the team as he would step down to reunite with his friends from Frankfurt, having fallen out of love for the game after the death of his friend, with Kapio also following him out the exit door before the end of the year.
"It was horrible," gob b explains. "I did not want to play at all, but I knew I had the duty and the responsibility for the fans, for myself and for the whole organisation to keep it going, but I really did not want to keep playing anymore. I just wanted to get it over with.
"In the end, Blizzard was standing in, and whoever knows him knows that he is like the coolest guy ever and so funny, and it was so cool to play with him. We felt like a team again, which was really important.
"As I remember, I played really well and I was really emotional because it was the first victory without cyx. It was important for me and for fans, even though I really felt like shit and I did not want to play.
"It was not only about me, it was also about the fans and the legacy."
As we discuss cyx's impact on the game, I bring up the age-old debate over whether he topped the list of the finest German Counter-Strike players in history over roman. "I think he was the best German player," gob b says. "Roman was also really, really good, but I feel that Toni was a little bit better. But it is hard to say. I would put them both up there. Overall, I would say that Toni was a top five player in 1.6, for sure." The BIG captain also believes that, if cyx were to start his career today, he would quickly become a fan favourite and an international sensation. “He would be a little bit like s1mple in the sense that he would have a lot of highlight clips on Reddit. In every game he would have at least one crazy round.”
Nine years after his death, cyx remains in the hearts of Counter-Strike fans all over the world, memories of his heroics also still fresh in the minds of many top players - a clear sign of how extraordinarily respected he was by his peers. Throughout his career, he brought a splash of colour to German Counter-Strike and helped mousesports to some of the biggest successes in the organisation’s history. For all that, he should become the first player to be inducted into the ESL Hall of Fame posthumously.
"I think he deserves it," gob b says when asked about a potential induction. "He gave everything for the game and loved it very much. He was the most talented player I have played with. He played for a short period of time but is still remembered. So I guess his legacy lives in us.
"Over the years, when I see players post stuff on social media, like pasha and the other ex-Virtus.pro players, it warms my heart and makes me really happy that they keep thinking about him.
"He deserves not to be forgotten."